On February 28, 2019, the Dostoevsky Library hosted an Urban Breakfast Úrbi et órbi on the topic “Brexit — a reminder of what the EU really is about”. The discussion took place in the framework of the ninth meeting of the EU-Russia Expert Network on Foreign Policy, an initiative of the EU Delegation to Russia in the framework of the "Public Diplomacy. EU and Russia" Project, in cooperation with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).
On February 28, 2019, the Dostoevsky Library hosted an Urban Breakfast Úrbi et órbi on the topic “Brexit — a reminder of what the EU really is about”. The discussion took place in the framework of the ninth meeting of the EU-Russia Expert Network on Foreign Policy, an initiative of the EU Delegation to Russia in the framework of the "Public Diplomacy. EU and Russia Project", in cooperation with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).
The consequences of Brexit for the UK, the EU, and for third countries, including Russia, were discussed by Oksana Antonenko, Director at the Global Political Risk team at the UK-based Control Risk consultancy, London, and Sergey Kulik, Director for International Development at the Institute for Contemporary Development, Moscow, and Nikolay Kaveshnikov, Head of Integration Processes Chair at MGIMO. The discussion was moderated by Sergey Utkin, Head of Strategic Assessment Section, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences.
In the opening speech Sergey Utkin noted that Brexit, dividing the British public into two blocs, is an extremely difficult challenge for the European Union.
The discussion began with a speech by Oksana Antonenko, who gave the general overview of the factors that had influenced the results of the referendum on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. According to the speaker, the main reasons were the massive influx of migrants into the EU, the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, as well as the “rhetoric of accusing the EU” adopted by British politicians. In addition, Antonenko cited data from the Control Risks forecast, according to which the probability of an organized (i.e. based on an agreement with Brussels) British withdrawal from the EU is 60%. At the same time, the so-called “no deal Brexit” has a 35% possibility, while the probability of retaining British membership in the EU amounts only 5%. The expert also noted that the date of the start of Brexit procedure scheduled for March 29 will most likely be postponed for up to six months or more. As for the economic consequences of a possible UK withdrawal from the EU, Oksana Antonenko mentions that the UK risks losing up to 2% of GDP in case of “no deal Brexit”. If an agreement with the EU is concluded, the country can expect only a short-term price increase. The speaker noted that the difficulties of the negotiation process with Brussels resulted from the reluctance of Brussels to weaken the internal market of the European Union.
Sergey Kulik analyzed the influence of Brexit on Russia's relations with both the UK and the European Union. Noting the importance of the European vector in Russian foreign policy and the development of an active position on Brexit, the expert examined in detail the main EU priorities in the event of a UK withdrawal. Kulik pointed out the need to prepare the ground for the partnership between London and Brussels, and, most importantly, preserve the stability of the EU internal market, as only a stable domestic market will provide the EU with a competitive advantage in relations with China, the United States, and other countries on the global arena. Another priority for the EU is its unconditional unity, as evidenced by the uncompromising position on the border of the Irish Republic. Summarizing the speech, the speaker once again called on the Russian expert community to monitor the situation around Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Further, Nikolay Kaveshnikov, Head of Integration Processes Chair at MGIMO MFA, expressed his position on the topic. The speech focused on the retrospective in relations between the UK and the European Union, and also tried to answer the main question of the event: “What is the EU really about?”. According to Kaveshnikov, London has always acted as a “strategic brake” of integration within the European Union or tried to achieve special conditions for itself. Analyzing the main reasons for this position of a “difficult partner”, the expert mentioned the reluctance of the UK to follow the path of political integration. “For London, European integration is a calculation by 90%, for Berlin and Paris it is an idea of a common destiny,” said Nikolay Kaveshnikov. Predicting the alignment of forces in the EU amidst the UK’s withdrawal, the expert noted some trends such as strengthening of the French-German core and the decline in Euroscepticism. According to the expert, the very nature of Euroscepticism is changing: declarations of intention to withdraw from the EU are replaced by demands to return some of the powers of European countries to the national level.
At the end of the breakfast, the experts answered questions from the audience about the changes in the UK foreign policy vector over the coming years and the significance of Brexit for Russia. In addition, the discussion touched upon the issues of Japanese companies leaving the UK, enhancement of UK economic ties with China, as well as the shift of financial centers to mainland Europe.